Friday, December 28, 2018

Stations: Newell Junction

When Addison Newell established his homestead along a remote tributary of the San Lorenzo River in 1867, he likely did not anticipate how long his name would be remembered. Indeed, he did not stay long in the area. In 1875, he sold the property and moved away, leaving his name to the little tributary stream, Newell Creek. Soon afterwards, the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Lumber Company erected its v-flume up the valley. At Newell Creek, it installed a feeder flume to keep the water flowing in the main flume on its way to Felton. The area around this junction became a gathering point for local residents when a school was established near here as Newell Creek School in 1876. By 1881, the area also supported a shingle and box mill operated by John Peter Houck, an operation that would at times lend the name "Shingle Springs" to Newell Creek.

The Felton & Pescadero Railroad changed the situation at and for Newell Creek. Demolishing the flume, the railroad erected a line to Boulder Creek that had to cross Newell Creek before reaching Pacific Mills (Ben Lomond). In fact, Newell Creek was its first major fluvial crossing. Because of the nearby school, the railroad established a siding at Newell Creek that was appropriately named the Newell Creek School House Siding. Whether the siding was actually used to shuttle in nearby school children or was used for freight is unknown. When the Southern Pacific Railroad took over in 1887, Newell Creek did not appear on its timetables and its very status during this period remains unclear.

The passenger shelter at Newell Junction, c. 1920. [The Valley Press]
In 1891, Newell Creek reappeared in Southern Pacific station books as a freight stop. By 1895, a platform and spur were also available at the stop. This likely reflected the future plans of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company, which increasingly owned the entirety of the Newell Creek valley, which included hundreds of acres of prime old-growth redwood. By 1902, Newell Creek was the only significant watershed in the San Lorenzo Valley that had not been harvested. But that soon changed.

The California Timber Company succeeded the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company in 1903 and it shifted operations from above Boulder Creek to Newell Creek. To support this venture, the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed one of its shortest branch lines, the 1.5-mile-long Newell Creek Branch, which ran between Newell Creek and the Newell Mill. Because the Boulder Creek Branch was scheduled for broad-gauging, the Newell Creek Branch was built dual-gauge. This not only allowed for it to be upgraded immediately, but it made it easier for the California Timber Company's narrow-gauge trains to use the mill trackage efficiently.

Newell Creek station became Newell Junction in 1908, once standard-gauging was completed, and it retained this name for the remainder of its existence. Around this same time, a small shelter was installed beside the switch to allow passengers to flag passing trains. This shelter was identical to the one at Brackney. Whether a freight platform remained after standard-gauging is unknown, but it seems unlikely since the spur at Newell Junction was removed at this time.

As a functioning branch line, the Newell Creek Branch ceased all or most operations by 1913, although the tracks remained in place until 1920, when the branch was decommissioned. Nonetheless, Newell Junction retained its name as a junction, despite the branch having disappeared. A remnant of the branch remained as a spur until 1930, although the purpose of this spur is unknown. The station remained available as a flag-stop until the end of passenger service at the end of 1930, after which the entire line only serviced freight. The Boulder Creek Branch was abandoned on January 25, 1934, at which time Newell Junction ceased to exist. The fate of the station shelter and sign remains unknown.

The approximate location of Newell Junction today. [Google Street View]
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
Approx. 37.0838N, 122.0815W

The site of Newell Junction is at the bottom of Newell Creek Road at its junction with Glen Arbor Road, although it is unclear where precisely the shelter was located. The Boulder Creek Branch right-of-way parallels Glen Arbor Road to the south and west in this area, while Newell Creek Road closely matches or parallels the route of the former Newell Creek Branch. No remnant of Newell Junction survives, but Addison Newell's legacy continues through street names and Newell Creek.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.

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